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Poker News | Casino Poker | Tournament Reports

Schwarzenegger Rejects CA Card Room Expansions

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On Wednesday, October 10, California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation that would have allowed a 45% increase in the number of gaming tables in some card clubs without voter approval. He commented that the bill would have created "a significant exemption to the current moratorium on expanding local gaming establishments. As a similar exemption was approved just two years ago, I do not believe it is appropriate to make another exemption at this time."

The bill cleared the Assembly as well as the Senate on Tuesday, but Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed it as promised. While he has supported Indian gaming during his term in office, and he signed a 2006 Florez-sponsored bill allowing local governments to withdraw wagering limits, the governor did not want to override the 1995 state law that prohibits the expansion of existing card rooms.

State Senator Dean Florez, D-Shafter, authored Senate Bill 152 and promoted it as a "modest" and "reasonable" way to accommodate the growing popularity of poker, specifically Texas hold'em, in California card rooms. In his analysis, he stated that customers "have to wait several hours to play or leave to go home and perhaps play poker on the Internet, which is prohibited by federal law." SB 152 would have applied to card rooms that are forbidden by local ordinances from having more than 12 tables, which would have meant that 60 of the state's 91 card rooms could have added one to five tables in each room.

Florez is the chairman of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee that oversees gambling issues for the state of California. According to the Sacramento Bee, card rooms have contributed $12,000 to his campaign account in 2007, in addition to donations to causes promoted by Florez in the past, but he denies any connection between his interest in SB 152 and any financial contributions from donors in the industry. His reasons for fighting for the bill were simple. "The best way to keep growth under control," he said, "is to make these very small, modest changes to the moratorium. If you go from 12 tables to 16, that's not really that big of a deal."

Fighting against the bill, however, were a number of organizations, including the California Coalition Against Gambling Expansion. A lawyer for the coalition stated, "You can't give (gamblers) the temptation... because almost by definition they cannot handle it. This continuous slide into more and more gambling is just going to exacerbate that problem."

While it is true that card room revenue has grown in each of the past four years, small card rooms have significant difficulties because they can't satisfy the ever-increasing number of customers who want to play. Instead of waiting for hours to take a seat at a table, players are likely to find a bigger card room or simply take their gaming interest to the Internet. The demand is there for the increase in tables at smaller casinos, as evidenced by the 2006 all-time high revenue of $794 million from card rooms alone.

Florez has not come forth with a statement regarding Gov. Schwarzenegger's veto, and it is unclear if he will attempt another piece of legislation to help California's card rooms.

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